Hurray for old school Rioja! Where else do they produce wine of such a high standard, lovingly nurture and mature it for you and then let you buy it at prices that are a dim and distant memory for most of the other premium wine regions of the world?
Three intensive days of tasting in the region sampled the traditional, the modernists, and the terroir schools of Rioja and whilst there are some fantastic modern 100% Tempranillos and some wonderful terroir driven single vineyard wines it’s very hard to beat wines such as Muga Gran Reserva, any of the Rioja Alta reservas, Cune Imperial & Vina Real for value and shear drinking pleasure.
90% Viura & 10% Malvasia raised in new French oak with 3 months lees contact.
Medium acidity fairly full bodied with a slightly oily texture Peach stone, pastry hint of smoke, lovely long finish. Very good.
Muga Crianza 2010
70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha & 10% Mazuelo & Graciano. 24 months in barrels & 12 months in bottle.
Fruit, vanilla & smoke on the nose. Medium body & acid lovely vanilla, coconut and bags of red fruit, complex. Coco powder like soft tannins. Very long and tasty. Very very good.
Muga Seleccion Especial 2009.
70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha & 10% Mazuelo & Graciano. 28 months in barrels & 12 months in bottle.
Scented, perfumed nose, intense and lingering. Lovely balance in the mouth, lots of lip smacking savoury flavours with sweet caramel, very rich, very long, excellent.
Muga Gran Reserva Prado Enea 2005.
80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha , Mazuelo & Graciano. A selection of the ripest from each harvest. 36 months in barrels & 36 months in bottle.
A little reluctant on the nose, opens up with spice, sweet strawberry chews, cinnamon, cloves and Xmas spices. On the palate ripe strawberries, orange peel, more complex spices great balance. Finishing very long with dried orange peel. Very refined outstanding wine.
Torre Muga 2010
75% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo & 10% Graciano. 24 months in barrels & 18 of which in new French oak.
Opaque ruby colour. Perfumed nose, raspberries, very full bodied medium acidity and high tannin but soft and mouth coating, intense red fruit and woody flavours, rather primal at this stage but very long.
Roda Reserva 2008
90% Tempranillo, 4% Garnacha, 6% Graciano. 30 year old bush vines. Aged in 50% new French oak. 16 months in barrel and 20 months cellaring in bottle.
Ruby colour light intensity.
On the nose, cherry & oak, bit of vanilla. Medium body, fresh acidity. More red fruit & cherries with supple tannins and good length. Delicate and fresh.
Roda Reserva I 2007
100% Tempranillo, 30 year old bush vines. Aged in 50% new French oak. 16 months in barrel and 20 months cellaring in bottle.
Deep ruby colour medium intensity.
On the nose, more plumb quite compact and reticent at the moment some mineral and a hint of oak, Fuller body, more structure than Roda again tight, needs food to bring out the fruit, good length.
During our tour of Roda’s state of the art cellars the wine making philosophy for Roda & Roda I was explained. All the grape types are vilified separately producing 17 vats of different wines. The wines going into Roda are selected for their freshness & red fruit character and those going into the Roda I blend for their black fruit character.
La Rioja Alta
LAGAR DE CERVERA Albariño 2013
D.O Rias Baixas. 100% Albariño, 10& malolactic fermentation, aged on lees.
Pronounced aromas of exotic fruit, mineral with citrus notes. In the mouth fresh acidity more exotic fruit and a nice mineral, saline finish. Very nice.
ÁSTER CRIANZA 2009
100% Tinta del País. From Ribera del Duero high altitude vineyards aged in new French oak for 22 months.
Dark opaque ruby colour. On the nose dark fruits, coffee, & toast. In the mouth more dark fruit, nuttiness, coffee and toasted wood. Nice and fresh with medium well integrated tannins.
ÁSTER FINCA EL OTERO 2009
100% Tinta del País. From Ribera del Duero high altitude vineyards aged in new French oak for 12 months
Dark opaque ruby colour. A bit closed and unformed on the nose, rather like sticking your nose into a barrel, fruit & charcoal. High acidity, medium to full body, lots of structure. Powerful intense black fruit with spicy. Savoury notes. Very long. Excellent potential.
Torre de Oña. Finca San Martín 2011 Crianza
100% Tempranillo from Rioja Alavesa. 16 months in 60% new American oak.
Clear ruby colour. ON the nose red fruit with a touch of vanilla and smoke. In the mouth more red fruit, strawberries, sweet caramel & some toast. Tasty.
Torre de Oña Reserva 2009
95% Tempranillo blended with 5% of Mazuelo from Rioja Alavesa. Aged for 20 months in a mixture of new French and older Caucasion barrels.
Dark ruby colour. On the nose red fruit, strawberries, cherries and a layer of toast and spice. On the palate a nice creamy texture, fruit and vanilla, medium length. Overall very tasty.
La Rioja Alta VIÑA ALBERDI Reserva 2007
100% Tempranillo. Aged for 2 years first in new American oak barrel made Alta’s own cooper. Then bottled in 2010.
Deep ruby colour. On the nose fresh red fruit, then toast, coffee and perhaps a little green pepper. In the mouth nice mouth coating soft tannin, enough freshness and a lovely mix of sweet fruit, and burnt caramel. Lovely and with plenty of development ahead.
La Rioja Alta VIÑA ARANA Reserva 2005
Tempranillo: 95 %, Mazuelo: 5 %, Aged in Alta’s own American oak barrels of 4 years and the bottled about 5 years ago.
Clear ruby colour. On the nose opening up with candied strawberries, then a complex mix of leather and tobacco and spice. In the mouth medium body, great balance and refinement red fruit, leather, and forest floor in a long finish. This is fantastic stuff! Available at around £17a bottle in the UK this represents outstanding value. Try to hold onto it for a few more years though as it will only improve.
La Rioja Alta VIÑA ARDANZA Reserva 2005
80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha. The grapes vinefied and aged separately for about 3 years and blended and bottled in 2009.
Dark ruby colour beginning to brick on the rim. Ripe concentrated black fruit on the nose, cherry chews, and liquorice. Where the Arana is elegance and refinement this is sensual and hedonistic. Ripe mixed berries, vanilla, spice and caramel with a silky mouth feel. Very long and satisfying. Again an outstanding wine at an outstanding price.
La Rioja Alta GRAN RESERVA 904 2004
90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. Aged 5 years on used American oak barrels then in bottles since 2009.
Clear ruby colour. Slightly reticent nose of red fruit, with savoury sweet vanilla oak & and hints of caramel. Great balance on the palate with intense fruit, high tannin and great freshness. Tightly structured with lots of promise. Incredibly long. Post this tasting we had the 2001 904 at dinner which was superb and the wine of the trip for many of us so the 2004 bodes very well.
La Rioja Alta GRAN RESERVA 890 1998
Tempranillo 95%, Graciano 3% and Mazuelo 2%. After six years aging in American oak barrels a selection of the best are then aged in bottle since then.
Garnet colour brick rim. A complex nose of spice, chalk, candied fruit, cloves, spice and lingering smoke. In the mouth medium body and acidity. Lovely complex meld of orange peel, cloves, tobacco. Very smooth and creamy mouth feel with an extremely long lingering finish. An extraordinary wine.
The Rioja Alta line up brings home just how much Rioja has to offer in the way of complex aged wines. What a fantastic range of wines from top to bottom. Where else can you buy wines of this standard ready to drink at these prices?
Cune Gran Reserva Imperial 2007
85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo. All new American & French oak barrels for 2 years followed by 2 more year’s bottle aging.
Medium garnet colour.
Little subdued on the nose, with coaxing light red fruit, charcoal, spices and a touch of liquorice.
Medium body and acidity with soft mouth coating tannin, black cherry, roasted coffee, complex with great balance and a long finish. Excellent. Retailing at about £25 per bottle in the UK this a great wine for the price.
Contino (part of the CVNE group)
Contino Blanco 2010
Viura: 60 %, Malvasia: 20 %, Garnacha blanca: 20 %. Fermentation is finished in French oak barrels and aged on its lees.
Clear straw colour.
On the nose quite floral, with stone fruits and some spice & wood. In the mouth full bodied lovely mix of stone fruit, pastry and spicy wood with a long creamy textured finish. Delicious! One of Adam’s favourite wines of the trip!
Contino Graciano 2007
100% Graciano. Only produced in the best years aged in French & Hungarian oak for 13 months and bottle aged for a year.
Dark purple colour opaque. Not totally clear but bright.
On the nose, floral, violets, ripe raspberries, touch of wood and a whiff of smoke, then as the wine opens cloves and spices.
On the palate medium body sweet black fruit, very fresh, complex mix of clean fruit, subtle spice and tobacco. Great persistent long finish. Excellent, this wine was just too good to spit!
Contino is unusual in Rioja as it follows the chateau model by only using grapes grown in its own vineyards. Nearly all the main Rioja wineries blend grapes from across multiple vineyards selecting for the reservas & grand reservas by quality and ripeness. In Contino by contrast wine maker Jesús de Madrazo Mateo seeks to express the terrior of the vineyards in his wines. Hence single varietal and single vineyard wines such as Graciano & Olivo.
Vina Real (also part of the CVNE group)
Vina Real Oro 2009 Reserva.
Tempranillo: 90 %, Mazuelo: 3 %, Graciano: 3 %, Garnacha Tinta: 3 %. Vinified in their amazing high tech cellars carved into the hill like a Bond villain’s lair in Rioja Alavesa. Matured in American & French oak for 2 years then in bottle in vast towers of wine under the hill.
Dark intense ruby colour. The nose displays candied strawberries, ripe raspberries and black cherries, subtle notes of leather. Medium body and acid. On the palate more strawberries, sweet spices & earthy touches. A long lingering finish where the firm tannins become apparent. Excellent.
Vina Real Oro 2006 Reserva.
Tempranillo: 90 %, Mazuelo: 3 %, Graciano: 3 %, Garnacha Tinta: 3 %.
Intense ruby colour. A striking nose of strawberries, spice and smoke. Again medium body with lovely sweet strawberry fruit, baked fruits, savoury leather and forest floor notes. More classic than the 2009.
Ysios 2007 reserva
100% Tempranillo, aged in 50% new oak mainly French.
Dark ruby opaque. Very slightly cloudy. On the nose a bit reticent, some strawberry, red fruit then coffee notes. In the mouth fresh, medium body, more red fruit & a nice mineral zing. Opens up with time. Very good.
Ysios Edicion Limitada 2009.
100% Tempranillo, aged in 75% new oak mainly French. Bottled in a very heavy opaque black bottle.
Dark purple opaque colour. Intense nose of ripe dark fruit, ripe black berries then liquorice, balsamic vinegar and spice.
Medium body, medium towards high acidity and high tannin. Concentrated with more sweet blackberry and spice. A big modern style wine with slight alcohol buzz. Excellent.
Bodegas Ysios is also a chateau style winery (Calatrava’s amazing winery fulfils the role of modern chateau nicely) making boutique wines from its own grapes.